Tobacco contract farming, crop diversification and household relations in the central region of Malawi

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This article examines crop diversification and household relations within a contract farming scheme in the Central region of Malawi. It discusses a pilot study that formally included wives to grow soya as part of a tobacco contract in Kasungu district. The article assesses whether this intervention improved benefits for the firm (through higher repayment rates), the farm (through higher yields for key crops) and the family (through greater well-being). Club-level data suggest that repayment rates remained the same. Comparisons between participating and non-participating households show a lack of accord between spouses: husbands asserted that maize yields and household well-being declined; wives highlight how they withdrew labour from soya, not maize, as they lost some control over this crop. Both spouses agreed that soya production and yields declined sharply but also that the firm should continue contracting wives to grow soya through a separate contract. Using data from both spouses offers a window on non-cooperation within households, with practical relevance for firms wishing to diversify the crops they are supporting via contract farming initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number2
Early online date21 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Malawi
  • contract farming
  • food crops
  • gender
  • intra-household models
  • sub-Saharan Africa

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